Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Exhausted of Being a Martha

It took an article from an online magazine to bring the point home. I was really tired and stressed. And ninety percent of it was self-induced! Being a new wife and mother, a missions mobilizer in church, a member of two Bible study groups, a full-time office worker, a freelance writer, and an on-call youth resource speaker were much too much for my two hands to handle. But even with these many hats already on my head, I was still intent on adding more caps and berets until I became a leaning tower of responsibilities. One more addition, and I am ready to fall from sheer exhaustion.

This being missions month at our church, I barely held my head up the water so that activities and appointments would not drown me. If I had my way, I wouldn’t stop until I drop. So, in His grace, God intervened this week and forced me to slow down. It had to take my six-month old baby boy’s fever, the effect of his latest vaccination, to keep me home over the weekend. At first I was anxious at the thought of not being in church to coordinate the Volunteers for Missions lunch fellowship. I constantly thought of the missions class facilitators meeting I missed. And I kept wondering who would arrange the display tables of the missions booths? But then I realized that the world would keep spinning even if I stayed home. The worship service would still go on without me. The missions class and fellowship would still bless people even if someone else coordinated them. And most of all, God was still very much in control even if I took time off to rest and be with my son.

I realized, too, how little time I had spent with my husband lately. For two weeks Mang had been asking me, “Bun, can I take you out on a date? Can you check your calendar and see when I could have dinner with you?” I laughed and didn’t take him seriously at that time. I simply told him that I’ll cook dinner for him at home, that way we could save on time, gas, and money. I reasoned that we had two evening Bible study groups scheduled to meet that week and I had several after-office meetings for my high school reunion and my book project. Indirectly, I was telling my husband that I had no time for him.

Once again, God intervened. One of the key people I was to see that week contracted conjunctivitis. The meeting was cancelled. Then, we received a letter from our travel agent telling us of a crisis concerning Mang’s temporary residence visa in the Philippines. Being a foreigner, Mang had to address the problem immediately. But being missionaries, we had to look up to God for His guidance and provisions. In an unplanned and unexpected way, Mang, I and our baby, Lian Ed, took an evening off and leisurely drove around the nearby university’s grounds to unwind. We parked near the athletic oval lined with huge acacia trees, carpeted by freshly cut grass, and roofed by the starry sky. There, we sang some hymns and talked to God and to each other as Lian Ed gulped milk from his feeding bottle.

But most of all, I realized that I failed to choose the most important thing in this life—to enjoy God. My hurried pace, long to-do-list, and tight schedule cost me the precious time to sit at Jesus’ feet, to listen to Him through my Bible reading, and to talk to Him through prayer. Everyday, the same thing happens—I get out of bed, skip breakfast, get dressed, kiss my boys goodbye and rush to the office. And though the office staff starts each day with devotions and prayer, I feel a strong tug in my heart to go into a secret place and spend time alone with the Father. Often, the day simply ends with guilt but the cycle repeats the next day.

I noticed that my lack of fellowship with God led to a clouded perspective on life. I complained more and thanked God less. I worried more and sang less. I criticized people more and appreciated them less. I argued with my husband more and prayed with him less. I got impatient with my son more and enjoyed him less. I frowned more and smiled less.

Somehow, I think, I understand why Jesus told Martha that her sister Mary had chosen the best thing by simply sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha busied herself and expected her to lend a hand. Martha resented Mary’s inactivity and told Jesus to reprimand her sister for not helping. It was surprising how Jesus responded, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, NCV)

Martha and Mary’s story taught me that I can choose how to live my life. There are more important things to which I should devote my time and energy. Often, I get drained by the less essential issues and when the more important concerns come, I have no more strength to address them. There will always be needs pressing me on all sides but I should discern which of those are what God wants me to prioritize. He will not require me to do beyond what He has enabled me to do. There would be times when I simply have to say “no” to what may be urgent in order to say “yes” to what really matters. I need not be an anxious, stressed and exhausted Martha if only I can be a Mary who will deliberately sit at Jesus’ feet and learn from Him who invites, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest…you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28 & 29c, NASB).

I’m glad that God orders my stops in unexpected ways. If he didn’t, I would have just kept going and harmed myself in the process. I’m thankful that God’s ways are not my ways and that His plans are always for my good. Just like any loving father would, God is quick to step in and pull me back when I’ve reached my limit and hold me in His arms until I find rest. (written in October 2004)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Passport Saga #1: Desperate!

I was desperate! All I could do was cry. Even my devotions this morning didn’t seem to help prepare me for the latest crisis. Just before leaving the house for the Indian Embassy, I found out that my passport holder containing my passport and PIO (15-year visa) card was missing. After several frantic minutes of looking in the house and phoning my friend who drove for me the day I possibly lost my passport, I realized it was really nowhere to be found. It wouldn’t have been so tragic if it were not for the fact that my family and I are due to leave for India in less than three weeks. This means that even if I have the money and the necessary requirements to secure new travel documents, I don’t have enough time to acquire them.

I sat in the dining hall and sobbed. I didn’t know whether to be angry or whether to feel sorry for myself for all the stress I have gone through this week, especially since my husband is out of the country on a business trip. I had a series of tension-filled experiences and this was the clincher, I thought.

“Mama,” my little girl called out from the living room. “Mama,” a gentle stroke on my hand accompanied the soft voice. Himig, my three-year old daughter, was trying her best to comfort me. When I looked up, my tears were streaming uncontrollably down my face. I forced a smile and looked at the little inquiring face before me. “Mama, stop crying. Just go!” I felt as though I was slapped on the face! I must have looked awful and distraught that only the simplicity of a child’s faith could transcend the anxieties and fears. My myopic spiritual eyes could only see the tragedy but my daughter’s pure faith enabled her to look at the triumph that lies ahead. I gathered myself and set out to do the needful.

I went to my husband’s office (next door) to check if I had left my passport holder there during “doing-without-thinking” moments. To my dismay, it was not there. I then took a cab and went to the seminary where I teach to check my office in the faculty lounge. It was still nowhere in sight.

Feeling so helpless, I slumped on my office chair, laid my head on my table and sobbed. My heart sank in despair. Things were beyond my control. I surrendered.

I finally prayed. I realized this should have been my first recourse rather than last. But I opted to operate on my own wisdom and strength, beginning with a frantic search. Slowly, hesitantly, in between sobs, I bared my heart to God. Confessing my frustrations over the week’s less than ideal situations, the pressure of facing crisis upon crisis without my husband, the inability to find a solution to problems, I finally admitted that I could not do anything. It was time for God to take over. Not long after I started emptying myself of my load, I felt God lovingly embracing me. In that room, I suddenly felt I was no longer alone. Hope started to fill my heart, washing away the desperation. Peace started to come, easing out the anxieties. Love started to envelope me, casting away fear. It was then that I realized, all throughout the frantic search, God had just been waiting for me to come to Him. He was waiting to speak to me about my situation. I was too preoccupied to even notice. I was too desperate to listen.

Passport Saga #2: It’s Not About Me

In a gentle yet powerful way, God lovingly rebuked me. The lost passport holder was perhaps a way for the Lord to get my attention. He knew too well that only something as serious as losing my passport and visa card three weeks before my family’s trip to India will get my attention these days. Honestly, I regret not paying attention to Him much earlier. I regret that I had to go through a harrowing week culminating in this crisis before I took God’s invitation to be with him seriously.

I knew deep in my heart that He has been calling. He had wanted to meet me, to speak to me. He would wake me up in the wee hours with a thought of reading my Bible. But laziness got the better of me. Sleep was good. Thus, I lost the best to the good.

This morning God got my full attention, all right! But it had come to a point of desperation first. I’m regretfully embarrassed.

“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask,” God was speaking through the book of Ruth chapter three verse eleven.

“Really? You will do for me all I ask?” I was unsure for I have sinned against my Father.

“And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask,” God assured me.

“Lord,” I wept. “Deliver me!”

My Heavenly Father waited until I could put words into my feelings and utter them in between sobs.

“I’m desperate, Lord! Please bring my passport and visa card back! I don’t want to get new documents. Please do a miracle and give them back to me. And please deliver me from all the stress and anxieties I’ve been having…unpaid bills, the Indian trip…there’s just so much I couldn’t take anymore. Please deliver me! And please, I want my husband!”

“All my fellow townsmen know that you are a woman of noble character,” a response I didn’t expect as I read Ruth 3:11.

“What Lord?” I don’t exactly feel like I am woman of noble character or anywhere near such a person!”

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22),” God’s response jumped out from the inspirational desk calendar right in front of me.

“Lord, seriously, this isn’t me at all. I don’t see myself as a good thing nor a favor to my husband at this very moment. I have been failing I almost everything lately—at home, with the kids as a mother, and now the passport and visa which my husband have entrusted to my care while he’s away.* You can’t be serious in calling me a good thing, a favor to my husband.”

“It’s not about you.”

“What Lord?”

“It’s not about you. It is I. It is I who caused you to be a woman of noble character. It is I who gave Mang a wife. It is I who gave him a good gift. It is I who gave him favor. It is not and can never be by your strength that you can become all these. It is still because of Me, by My grace and love that you are the woman that you are and the wife that you are to Mang. It is not about you. It never was and never will be.”

“Forgive me, Lord, for my pride. All this time I did things on my own wisdom and strength. And I’ve reached the end of my supply of strength. My hoard of resources has depleted and I have no more to give. That is why I am in despair. I had been proud in thinking that I am the woman behind my man’s success; that without me life would be difficult for him. I was praising You for my achievements at home, at work, in the ministry, in my marriage. But all that was lip service. You saw right through me that at the core of my being was hubris! I was boasting. It was all about me. I was terribly mistaken. I am so sorry. Forgive me, Lord.”

The phone rang. “Hi, Bun.” Mang’s voice sounded so crisp and clear. I was afraid to tell the truth but I had to. “How are you?”

“I’m not okay. I lost my passport and visa card,” I sobbed before I could finish what I wanted to say.

“It’s okay, Bun. Don’t worry. God knows where it is. We will find it,” Mang did not say anything hurtful. He just encouraged me and promised to call again.

My mobile phone let off an alarm signaling a message: Bun, let’s continue to search but we leave the matter to God. He knows what’s going on and He will work everything out for His own glory. Love you.

As soon as I read Mang’s SMS I realized that God had given one of the things I had just asked of Him: my husband. He may have been physically far but he was closer than I could ever wanted. I replied: Thanks. As I prayed I asked God for deliverance and I asked Him for you. Then you called. God answered. I’m now at peace. He will do as He pleases for His glory.

“Wait, my daughter, until you find out what happens. For [I] will not rest until the matter is settled today (Ruth 3:18),” God had the last word for the day. After all, it is about Him.

* Mang is on a ministry trip as I write this.

Passport Saga #3: Certainty amidst Uncertainty

It took some amount of losing and dying to self for me to understand what it means to be peaceful in the midst of insecurity.

The loss of my passport and visa card became a gateway to a whole new journey with God. For the past two days He has been undeniably present. I felt His nearness and reality. Not only was He comforting me, He was also guiding me. The whole experience took my faith to a higher level. The whole experience taught me several significant lessons.

Being Still, Listening to God

First, I learned to sit still, pray and listen to God. I used to pray frantically. My prayers were like placing orders at a fastfood counter. I asked for a combo meal of the usual petitions—provisions for needs, good health, traveling mercies. But I never went beyond the menu board of needs to check what was the dish of the day. As a result, I have failed to listen to God many times, thereby, missing His blessings and guidance. No wonder I come away from praying still anxious and heavily laden. The loss of my travel documents forced me to literally sit, pray and listen to God. As I cried in desperation, I emptied my heart to God, freeing it from fears and worries. God replied through the Bible in Ruth chapter three. God’s Word gave me the courage to ask specifically what my heart desired (my passport’s retrieval) and to claim the answer. God, through the Holy Spirit, also spoke in my heart. Very clearly the Spirit impressed on me that the whole ordeal was not about me. It was happening so that God would be glorified in the end. I left my prayer room with a lighter heart, a better countenance and a stronger faith.

The Bigger Scene

Second, the loss of my passport was a small part of a bigger battle scene. My husband, Mang, was away on a ministry trip in a place where there is tremendous need for the Gospel of Jesus. I’ve always known that whenever he goes to these places unexplainable trials come my way. During the ten-day period that he was away, I hurdled one challenge after another at home, in church and at work. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. By the time I discovered the loss of my passport, I’ve lost my hoard of strength. I broke down and cried. I surrendered. But just like one of my favorite hymns says:

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater

To added affliction He addeth His mercy

To multiplied trials His multiplied peace.

As I prayed, God gave me Ruth 3:18: Wait my daughter, for he won’t rest until the matter is settled today. In another translation the verse reads: Just be patient and don’t worry about what will happen. He won’t rest until everything is settled today! These words gave me immeasurable hope. It showed me a God who is actively at work as I patiently wait! I realized that God was working on my behalf. It gave me the confidence that I shall yet retrieve my passport and God will not tarry in keeping His promise. I simply had to yield because the battle was not mine but His.

After reading and re-reading Ruth 3:18, it dawned on me that something was indeed happening in the spiritual realm that was beyond me. It was a battle that had to be won in the realms that are beyond my human comprehension. That is why God needed to make me understand that I had to let go and He had to take over. The Spirit’s silent witness in my heart assured me that it had to do with the ministry that my husband was engaged in and that as his wife, I was a partaker in all that it entailed. Furthermore, we were preparing for a monumental spiritual event for the Dousel clan in India this December. No wonder the enemy has been trying his best to keep us from going. This whole passport saga was a spiritual battle in as much as it was physical and emotional in nature. God was determined to settle it and win it on my behalf for His glory.

Practicing God’s Presence

Practicing God’s presence was the third lesson I learned through this ordeal. While waiting for my turn at the police station to file a report of my lost passport, I had time to read the last chapter of the book I was reading. It was a book on prayer. The whole chapter was devoted on what it meant to live in God’s presence. It explained the reality and practicality of practicing the presence of God. I had encountered this phrase six years ago as a young wife and a new mother. My mentor introduced to me the need to practice the presence of God but left me enough space to figure it out for myself.

Practicing the presence of God was a concept originally conceived by Brother Lawrence, a cook in a seventeenth-century monastery in France.* The practice of God’s presence to this monk meant communing with God as he washed the dishes and served food to his fellow monks. The glow of God’s presence gave his mundane kitchen duties richness and significance.

It is this discipline that I once again re-learned as I sat in front of the police officer. And it was perhaps due to my courageous attempt to practice the presence of God that gave me favor in the eyes of the authorities that sped up the process.

God’s presence was also evident in the person of my friend, Cherry, who volunteered to drive for me the whole day. She kept me company and gave me courage to face what the rest of the day can still throw at me.

I felt the reality of God’s presence when later in the afternoon He brought my husband safely home. Mang’s arrival was like a healing balm that soothed my aches and pains. His nearness was like a tangible expression of God’s presence.

If Only I Ask

Another thing I learned is that many people are more than willing to intercede for me if I only ask them. Thanks to a social networking site, I was able to place a prayer request, sending so many friends all over the world on their knees on my behalf. My husband’s officemates, my family and friends near and far were united in prayer and in extending help in the retrieval of my passport (friends in media placed announcements on the radio). It amazed me to see how God answers in a mighty way when His people unite in prayer.

The Miracle: The Lost Passport Found

This event taught me so many things but I would like to end this sharing with the word miracle. I realized that I still believe in miracles. I started this day with reading Mark 10:27: There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything. Another version reads: With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God. The loss of my passport and the promises from God’s word brought me back to the days of my childhood when I was awed by God’s miracles in the Bible. I felt as though I became like a child again with faith that can move mountains. I was like a little girl once again, looking up to heaven in eagerness to see God’s next miracle.

Cherry and I picked up Mang who just flew in from his international ministry trip. We decided to proceed to the Indian Embassy instead of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The staff at the Embassy informed us that I had to go through the whole process of visa application which meant two weeks processing time and paying Php17,000. Clearly, the trip to India was becoming more and more elusive. There was no way I could get a passport and a visa before our appointed departure.

The silence in the car was almost eerie. It seemed no one dared to talk lest I break down. But I couldn’t contain my overwhelming emotions, “God, You know exactly where my passport is! Please, give it back to me. Please tell the person who found it to return it to me over the weekend. Please, God. Please.”

My desperate prayer enabled me to put a smile on my face. “I hope that if it did fall on the taxi floor…I hope that the taxi driver will just look under his seat and find it there and return it to me.”

“What’s this?” Mang said as he handed to me a black passport holder from the backseat.

“What’s that? That’s yours! You’re just pulling a prank!” I was still faithless.

Mang opened the passport holder and lo and behold, there they were, my passport and visa card! It was indeed mine! I burst into tears. “Thank You, Lord!”

“How did you find it? Where?” Cherry asked. As soon as I talked about finding it under the driver’s seat, Mang bent over to find the edge of my passport holder sticking out from deep under the driver’s seat. We were baffled. Cherry looked for it in her car twice, checking under the seats and found nothing the day we found out I lost it. The thing was, we were together a few days back when I last saw my travel documents. It was possible that I dropped it in her car. But I was puzzled because I was certain that I last saw my passport holder in my bag while we were having dinner in the mall the day I lost it. I didn’t ride with Cherry after dinner. How it came to be under the driver’s seat, is still a mystery to me. All I knew was that God once again did the impossible!

God proved Himself faithful, loving and powerful. Most of all, He once again showed me the reality of His presence. It is true, He was glorified in the end.

* Hybels, Bill. (1998). Too Busy Not to Pray.ybe USA: Intervarsity Press., p. 172.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Frustrated Mom

The past three days have been excruciatingly painful and difficult for me as a mother. It’s because I failed again.

My son, Lian Ed, has been trying my patience in almost every way daily. I don’t want to assume that he is doing it on purpose, but my adult suspicious mind prompts me to think it such. The latest incident was that he punched his sister in the rib cage area, a cause of alarm for me. I have seen him frustrated, even angry at his little sister for meddling with his toys and interrupting his games. But this was the first time that he lost his control and physically hurt her.

I got scared at this act of violence. Does my son have anger problems? Definitely he has temper issues, and yes, he got it from me. But does the recent incident call for an intervention? If so, what kind? The most I could do was to write this verse on a piece of paper: Always be gentle with others (Philippians 4:5). Then, I asked him to memorize the passage this week. I am just hoping that the Word of God will take root in his heart.

Himig, my little girl, has officially entered the trying three’s stage. At three years old she is extremely curious about everything. The endless “Why Mama?” has begun. Her naughty streak surfaces once in a while, annoying her big brother and ultimately, me.

Everyday, as soon as they both wake up, I hear crying and wailing and whining and complaining. I tried my best to talk to them both and explain why fighting isn’t good, that they should love each other.

Finally, I lost my cool and for the past three days I snap at the littlest thing. I’ve screamed at the kids to stop fighting. I ignored their calls. I was just ready to break down.

Now I am at my husband’s office typing this, feeling guilty that I took flight to escape my kids. I know that my reactions to my children will have far reaching effects on them. I know that one day when they’re old enough to piece things together they would be able to say I was not patient or loving enough. I know that like me when I was a teenager, they will have their own angst-ridden advocacies against their mother! Oh what’s a frustrated mom like me going to do?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Blessing and Shame

"It was a good ten-minute walk (I walked from Kalayaan corner V. Luna to the office on my way back from Meralco). I realized that perhaps God is teaching me to sing from my heart, 'Lord, You are more precious than silver; Lord, You are more costly than gold. More beautiful than diamonds; And nothing I desire compares to you.' I started to pray for Lian Ed's milk, "Lord, please provide for my baby's milk. He has nothing for tonight." Then Habakkuk 3:17-18 came to mind:

Though the fig tree should not blossom

And there be no fruit in the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail

And the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold

And there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet I will exult in the Lord,

I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

God is taking me at HIS Word! I felt Him enabling me to sincerely declare these words and claim it to be true in my life. It is not the easiest to do. Trusting the money I can count seems easier than putting my faith in an unseen Provider. But I felt God's Spirit quickening mine. It is possible to rejoice in the midst of scarcity. It is possible to be at peace in the midst of poverty. And to be ashamed of the way He chooses to provide is acutally pride and ungratefulness. It is possible to trust the God of the impossible."

Later that day, an officemate came to my cubicle and handed me a grocery bag. In it was a big can of milk. She said, “Please give this to my inaanak (godson). I realize I have not been a good ninang, having missed his birthday, I want to make up by giving this as a gift.” Tears fell from my eyes. My officemate had no idea what I was going through. I simply said, “Thank you. Thank God for you.”

(This piece was written in 2004.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Mama, is this good for me?"

Lian Ed, my five-year old son, caught me by surprise, when, while I was supervising him take a shower before going to school, he asked, “Mama, is this good for me?” He was referring to the shampoo/body wash that I told him to use.

Our family resolved to start going natural (and organic) as part of being intentional in caring for our environment. Since our “Aha!” moment last year (remember our newsletter that talked about becoming planet savers and not planet destroyers?) regarding the alarming rate of nature’s destruction, we decided to take our role in ecological stewardship seriously. I put together menus that were using more natural ingredients (no more mixes, instant noodles, microwavable food and artificial flavorings) and opted for home-cooked meals than fastfood value meals. Mang’s cousin introduced me to a health drink made of natural ingredients that addressed a lot of our health concerns, from the kids’ asthma and allergies, to Mang’s knee pain (possibly arthritic), to my vertigo. Even our choice of rice went from the milled white one to the organic brown kind. I found a product line of organic beauty and personal care products (like shampoo and body wash for adults and kids) as well as household cleaning items (like detergent, fabric conditioner and dish washing soap) which were very affordable.

I signed up as a dealer of these products only to get discounts, unaware of its added values. At the end of the first month that I and my family had been intentionally eco-friendly, I realized that we were healthier. We also saved a lot on medical expenses. In Filipino, this is what we call pagtitipid sa tama (saving up the right way). Not only did we save money, we also helped others learn about good stewardship of our bodies and our environment. Some signed up as dealers under me, too, eventually giving me a new business opportunity!

Though I learned the ropes of the business as well as imbibed the value of going natural, there were days when I had slip ups. And this was one of those days. I ran out of stock of the kids’ shampoo/body wash and there was no time to order. I decided to use the chemical-based brand which was readily available. “Mama, is this good for me?” Lian Ed inquired. He learned the importance of using natural products, not just from me but also from his school. In simple ways, he understood that certain soaps, shampoos and toothpastes can make him and the earth sick.

“Mama, is this good for me?”

“You mean taking a shower? Of course it is!”

“No, I mean this shampoo.”

What should I say? Do I say a little amount of it wouldn’t hurt? After all, that’s what the leading brands in the market are indirectly telling us: a white lie! How about you? How would you respond?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Blessing of a "No"

I wrote this piece when my son Lian Ed was 8 months old. That was about six years ago. I still find it true to this day.

The Blessing of a ‘No’

If your children ask for a fish, which of you would give them a snake instead? Or, if your children ask for an egg, would you give them a scorpion? Even though you are bad, you know how to give good things to your children. How much more your heavenly Father…” (Luke 11:11-13b)

Now that I am already a mother, I started to appreciate more when God withholds something from me. From a parent’s perspective I have learned the wisdom of God’s denials of some of my requests and when he answers my prayers other than the way I wanted them to be answered.

At eight months old, Lian Ed has learned to go for what he wants and even scream in an effort to get it. Hard as it is to say ‘No,’ there are just times that I simply must deny my son of what he wants. It’s cliché, but it’s a timeless truth that parents always know what’s best for their children. I know that to give in to Lian Ed whenever he wants to be carried would eventually make him think that everything revolves around him and that people can just drop whatever they are doing in order to obey his bidding. Of course, when he grows older, he will realize that in this world, people don’t always do what we want and we don’t always get what we want. If we don’t say ‘No’ to our son, he would just put in his mouth whatever he gets hold of and may actually poison himself in the process. When he gets older, the poisons of life will take the form of fame, fortune, illicit use of sex, substance abuse, arrogance, bitterness, anger, bad company and many other things. If at an early age, he doesn’t learn to stay away from what he shouldn’t bite, then when he’s an adult it will be harder for him not to swallow whatever poison the world offers to him, especially if it is nicely garnished. If we don’t use the paddle to help him understand at times then we are sure to spoil our child and not teach him in the way he should go.

I thank God for He is a parent. Indeed, we earthly parents can give to our children the best because we have received the best from our Heavenly Father.

Friday, September 24, 2010

True Love Weds

Catch my new book True Love Weds: When the Waiting is Over in book stores nearest you!

Monday, June 28, 2010

If Only I Could Touch Him

The day started like any other. The kids woke up just about the same time that my husband, Mang, and I did. I gave baby Himig her first feeding for the day and since she’s breastfed, I simply had to lie down breside her. I decided to linger a bit longer in bed when my four-year old, Lian Ed, greeted me with a smile followed by, “Good morning Mama. I’m hungry.” That was my signal to get up and start preparing breakfast.

In ten minutes, our small kitchen cum dining hall was busy. Ding! The toaster signaled that the bread was ready. The kettle whistled just as I finished putting instant coffee, sugar and creamer into the cups. I hurried to set the table. I poured more cereals into my clamoring son’s bowl while trying to pacify the baby who was crying to be picked up. Even before I had finished my pan de sal I got up to prepare Mang’s clothes for work.

Mang kissed the kids and me goodbye. Once again, I was left to tend to the kids and the house chores alone. In between feeding the baby and answering my pre-schooler’s endless questions, I tried to catch up with my writing backlog. It was one of those regular days for me but for some reason I knew it won’t stay ordinary for long. By mid-morning I was so exhausted. As soon as the kids were in bed for their afternoon nap, I fell on the bed side and broke into tears. “I can’t do this anymore! I’m so tired!” I sent Mang an SMS saying how frustrated and tired I am and he replied assuring me of his understanding and love. That didn’t seem enough to calm my restless heart. I found myself desperate for Jesus. I poured out my frustrations to Him knowing that only He could fully comprehend what I was experiencing.

That day I came across the story of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Mark 25:24-34). She too was frustrated with her condition and didn’t feel that her day was a regular day for her. She was ill and was made worse by the misdiagnosis of the doctors. Worse, she had become an outcast in her hometown because her culture dictates that any woman who is menstruating (and menstruating endlessly like her) is defiled. She’s not allowed to mingle with the crowd, to talk with anyone or to dine with others even her own family! How desperate and lonely she must have felt.

One day Jesus came to her town. That drove this desperate woman to do the unimaginable. Braving the crowd, she pressed her way to be close to Jesus. If only I could touch the hem of His clothes, I would be healed. She didn’t even plan to introduce herself to the Teacher. She just has to touch the hem of his garment that’s all. No one would know. No one would notice. But Jesus did. He felt power come out of Him as soon as she touched His clothes. “Who touched me?” Jesus inquired. “With all these people, how can you ask that?” the disciples’ outraged reply. But Jesus was a personal Savior and Healer. He may be in the crowd but He can see the individual. He may be walking in the midst of a throng but He is concerned with the person. As soon as the woman identified herself, Jesus relieved her of her fear and embarrassment by listening to her story. She told Him the whole truth. “Daughter, your faith has healed you,” was Jesus’ compassionate words to her. For the first time in over a decade, someone actually listened to her. Once again, she was affiliated with someone. Someone called her “Daughter” and she’s once again part of a family, part of the society. Jesus’ words of love not only healed her body but soothed her hurting heart. Everyone who witnessed the miracle finally heard the true story. It wasn’t her fault that she was ill. She didn’t have any unconfessed sin nor was she a bad woman. She was simply stricken with disease and now she is healed. Her desperation compelled her to do the unimaginable and she pressed through the crowd. Her desperation made her reach out and touch somebody. Her desperation brought her to the place of connection with Jesus. It was an opportunity to be intimate with Christ and she was never the same. She came to Him desperate and she went away renewed.

That day, I realized that I needed to be connected anew to my Savior. If only I could reach out to Him and listen to His words of healing then I would be better. I was not mistaken. I only dared “touch the hem of His garment.” Because Jesus knew me all too well, He gave me a concrete measure of His love. Mang came home from the office early, listened to me, embraced me and prayed for me. I came away from the place of desperation comforted and refreshed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The One Little Thing I Did for My Country

Dear God, thank you that I am a Filipino. Thank you that I can show my respect and love for my country with this privilege and right to vote. Thank you because whatever happens today, everything is under your sovereignty. Amen.

I whispered this prayer as I climbed the stairs to the third floor to find my precinct and cast my vote. I was still undecided as who to vote, though one presidential candidate’s name rang over and over in my head. Nothing was certain except the fact that only God holds the future. I knew then how crucial it was to trust that God will see the whole Filipino nation through this electoral process.

It has been a long journey to this day. There was much fear especially when the precinct count optical scanner (PCOS) machines started failing one after another during trials. Many predicted doom while others remained optimistic. Many feared the worst while many also hoped for the best. Many were apathetic while others remained passionate about their candidate of choice. Colors were all over the place. I think after this election, at least for a few years, yellow, green, blue, orange and red would always have their political connotation.

Regardless of what color we took to the polls, I believe that when all is said and done, the next best thing to do is to be true Filipinos. This means after we have fulfilled our duty to elect our leaders, we need to put our allegiance to our country. When the winners are proclaimed, losers should humbly accept it. When the new president, vice president, senators and local officials have been given their seat of leadership, we should “give to Caesar what is due him.” When the new government rolls, we should go with it regardless of who is in command. But above all, we should safeguard the legacy of those who have gone before us so that we may have something to bequeath to those coming after us: the legacy of a people with dignity, hope, courage, history, culture, faith. Our submission to the authorities does not mean turning a blind eye to unscrupulous individuals who use their government positions to amass wealth at the expense of millions who are starving. Our allegiance to our country means caring for one another for we are all Filipinos under one flag. At the end of the day, our loyalty should be to each other because we belong to one land. And this land gave us our lives, our identity, our heritage. No matter what others say, the Philippines is still our home. No matter how badly the Philippines has been criticized or the Filipinos have been maligned, we are still a nation ruled by our own countrymen. No matter how far away we settle, the Philippines is still our point of origin and our Filipino hearts will always yearn to go back. No matter how good it is to live in another country, it is only in the Philippines where we will be our selves. As Prof. Winnie Monsod said, “I don't care where you are, you go to Hong Kong, you go to Singapore, you're rich, rich, rich, you're still gonna be a second-class citizen anywhere. ANYWHERE, but in the Philippines. Think of what you can do for this country.”

I am married to a foreigner, not because of economic reasons but by matter of faith. When it comes to issues of where to establish our home, without a doubt, I would always say the Philippines is my first choice. It scares me to think of the day when my husband would say, “It’s time to move.” I feel my insides turning into a knot at the thought of surrendering my passport to become a citizen of another nation. I always held the conviction that God did not make me a Filipino for nothing. I am in the Philippines and will not leave it if only to escape the difficulties that plague it. I am a Filipino because I have a purpose to fulfill as a Filipino no matter how big or small it is. After all, there is nothing insignificant in the eyes of the Creator of the universe, who also happens to be the Creator of this land and its people. For now, casting my vote was my one little contribution to my country. I’m glad my right forefinger is stained.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Quiet Times in Noisy Places

When I was a new wife and mother, I often got frustrated at my inability to carve out time for personal meditations everyday. Worst, my heart weighed heavy with guilt the whole day whenever I fail to do this Christian duty. Ashamed of what I deemed to be my lack of spiritual vibrance, I approached a mentor. Expecting a sermon, I was surprised when she said, “Grace, you just have to learn to practice God’s presence.” That came to me as a profound statement at that time. Though I did not fully understand what she meant, I was content to bring home that piece of advice. But I constantly asked myself, “How do I practice God’s presence?”

Three years after that conversation, I find myself holding on to that spiritual maxim. Now, that I am in the mission field and still very much a wife and a mother, “practicing God’s presence” is what keeps me spiritually strong and fresh.

I must admit that my personality requires that I print out my detailed weekly schedule and post it on the wall near my study table. But the reality and the context where I am in just don’t allow me to follow it to the letter. There’s really no way to predict my day. We can never tell when the community would call for help. For instance, one Sunday my husband, Mang, and I agreed to set aside the whole day for our family. We were excited to attend a church in Davao for the first time. We’ve heard good reports about this church and since we’ve not found one where we can regularly attend since we arrived, we thought we just might finally find a home church away from home. After an inspiring worship and singing time, we were all set to listen to hear God’s message preached. That was until Mang’s mobile phone vibrated, indicating a message just came in.

“Sorry, I’ve got to go,” he whispered to my ear. Sensing my bewilderment, he further explained. “The waves in Bucana have suddenly gotten big. Our community center is flooded. I’ve got to go and help the guys out.”

Without hesitation, I got up and took our son, Lian Ed, from the toddlers’ room. We immediately went home. Mang hurriedly changed his Sunday clothes into jeans shorts and faded T-shirt, kissed us goodbye, hopped on his motorbike and sped away. He and other members of the team with some people from the community did “patch-up” carpentry and cement work at the center until the end of the day. As I stayed at home, cared for our son and prepared supper, I simply whispered prayer after prayer for them.

I’m used to having my quiet time in the morning. Now, I can’t say which time of the day I can have it. The most conducive time would be when Lian Ed has finally taken a nap. That would mean just a little over an hour.

I used to have a pattern, too. I pray for guidance. I read the Bible. I read a devotional book. I pray in relation to what I’ve read. Then, I write in my journal whatever insights I gleaned from my time with God. Now, with the very little time I have, I hardly have time to jot down my thoughts. Don’t get me wrong, I still read my Bible and occasionally, inspirational books but I have to say that I read with a different pair of eyes now. My eyes have been opened to the reality of the brevity of time and the pains of life. I now see a different facet of who God is in the life of urban poor Muslims, the homeless, the prostitutes, the gays and the street children and youth.

In some ways, I think I’ve learned what it means to practice God’s presence. It is being conscious of Emmanuel—God with us. Whether I’m locked up in my room in deep meditation or walking in the sandy alleys of Bucana or sitting with the transient residents of Osmena Park, God is with me. And if He is with me then I can commune with Him anytime and anywhere. After all, the purpose of my cherished spiritual disciplines like devotions and Sunday worship is to know God and hear from Him. Often, I “read” His Word through the lives of my teammates who live out Christ’s teachings on humility, unconditional love and selfless service. I participate in what the Prophet Isaiah calls true fasting and praying—feeding the poor and caring for the widows and orphans. I actually learn to walk in the steps of Jesus as our team does what He said, “Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Love your enemies.”

At the end of each day, I look back and see what it means to practice God’s presence. Though unconventional in light of my evangelical upbringing, this way of communing with God works for me in this unconventional context of serving Muslims and outcasts.

(Written in Davao City in 2006)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sinong Iboboto Mo?

Sharing with my readers this article (written in Filipino) by Dr. Melba P. Maggay. It's something that really made me think about this coming elections:

Sinong Iboboto Mo?

Ni Melba Padilla Maggay, PhD

Sa halalang ito, nakita natin ang paglitaw ng dalawang kandidato na kumakatawan sa dalawang isyu na ayon sa mga survey ay pinakamahalaga para sa mga botante: ang corruption at ang kahirapan.

Si Noynoy Aquino ay nangunguna sapagkat pumukaw ng pag-asa na mabibigyan ng lunas ang mga katiwalian sa pamahalaan. Ang kanyang pangako: “Hindi ako magnanakaw.” Si Manny Villar ay nanguna rin sa mga unang survey dahil sa pangakong tatapusin niya ang kahirapan. Kung nagawa niya na umahon sa hirap para sa kanyang sarili, magagawa rin daw niya ito para sa buong bansa.

Gayun na lamang ang tindi ng korapsyon at kahirapan na naging pangunahing konsiderasyon ang mga ito sa pagpili ng napupusuang kandidato. May mga nagsasabi na kahit may ibang kandidato na higit ang kakayahan kay Noynoy, mas pipiliin pa rin nila ito bilang paniniguro na hindi mauulit ang garapal na pagnanakaw sa gobyerno. Gayun din, marami ang nahihikayat na bumoto kay Villar sa pag-asang aangat ang mahihirap kapag siya na ang nakaupo. Ngayon na si Villar ay bumababa ang ratings, mukhang ang sumasalo sa mga botong ito ay si Erap, na matagal na ring nagsasabi na siya ay ‘para sa mahirap.’

Dahil sa dalawang krisis na ito ng ating panahon, may mga kandidato na kahit lamang sa talino o may kakayahang mamuno, ay hindi umaangat sa surveys. Nariyan si Gibo Teodoro, o kaya’y si Dick Gordon, na kung tutuusin ay siyang may pinakamahabang karanasan sa pamamahala at may maganda namang track record na masasabi.

Si Jamby Madrigal, si Nicky Perlas, si JC de los Reyes at si Brother Eddie Villanueva ay pawang may mga kakayahan din at matibay na paninindigan. Subalit bakit mukhang malayo silang manalo?

Sa ganang amin, hindi lamang kagagawan ito ng mga surveys. May mga tinatawag na plausibility structures, o mga istruktura at mga puwersa sa ating lipunan na nagsisilbing konteksto upang mangyari ang isang bagay. May pangalan si Noynoy, halimbawa, may angkan na bantog sa ating kasaysayan. May pera naman si Villar upang mapalaganap ang mensahe na maaring mangarap ang mahirap. Nariyan din ang ating kalagayang panlipunan at kultura, na hindi naaakit sa mga usapang malayo sa sikmura, ika nga. Yung ginigiit natin na bigyang pansin ang plataporma at hindi lamang personality ay hindi naririnig sapagka’t sadyang mas interesado tayo sa tao at nabo-bore sa mga abstract at hindi mahawakan na mga usapin.

Sa madaling salita, may mga puwersa na kailangan upang mangyari ang isang bagay at magawa ang ating mga pinapangarap. Ang mga pagbabago ay nakasalalay, hindi lamang sa mga tao, kundi sa mga puwersang nakapaligid at may malaking impluwensiya sa paghubog ng anumang gobyernong uupo.

Kaya’t sa halalang ito, matamang isipin, hindi lamang ang pansariling katangian ng mga kandidato, kundi ang mga bagay na maaring magbigay ng puwersa o maging hadlang sa kanilang mga pinapangako.

Sino o ano, halimbawa, ang mga puwersang nakapaligid kay Gibo? Ano ang maaaring mangyari kapag mailuklok ang manok ng kasalukuyang administrasyon? May kakayahan ba si Gibong manindigan para sa katarungan kahit hindi ito ayon sa kagustuhan ng kanyang padrino? Maaari ding itanong, bakit umanib siya sa partido ng isang administrayong lublob sa korapsyon? Ano ang ipinahihiwatig nito tungkol sa kanyang prinsipyo at pagde-desisyon?

Sakaling si Erap ay mahahalal, ano ang sinasabi nito tungkol sa antas ng ating pagpapahalaga sa kalinisan ng ating pamahalaan? Ano ang magiging papel ng mga cronies niya na nagsilbing midnight cabinet noon at kasa-kasama niya sa mga eskandalong nagpabagsak sa kaniya? Ano ang mga bagahe na dala-dala niya, ano ang mga puwersa na magtutulak sa kanya dahil sa dami ng kanyang mga anak at asawa na kailangang tustusan?

Gayun din, kaya ba ni Noynoy na sumalungat sa sari-saring interes ng mga nakapaligid sa kanya? May kakayahan ba siyang mamuno at manaig sa mga puwersang sa ngayo’y tumutulong sa kanya?

Ayon sa pananaliksik, lumago nang 29 times ang mga negosyo ni Villar simula nang siya’y maupo sa puwesto. Ano ang maaaring mangyari kung siya na ang pangulo ?

Maliwanag na tayo’y naghahangad ng lunas sa korapsyon at paghihirap. Sino sa mga kandidato ang tunay na may kakayahang manindigan laban sa katiwalian at isulong ang kaunlaran ?

Sa Lunes, gagawa tayo ng isang makasaysayang desisyon. Ang ating kapalaran sa mga susunod na taon ay nauukit, hindi sa ating mga palad, kundi sa ating mga puso at isipan na nagpapasiya kung ano ang tawag ng ating panahon. Ang atin bang pagboto ay ayon sa matuwid at makatarungang landas na hangad ng ating Panginoon ?

Lingid man sa atin, ang kalooban ng ating Panginoon ay nagaganap dito sa lupa sa pamamagitan ng kanyang mga anak na nagpapasiya at tumatalima ayon sa kanilang pakikinig sa yabag ng Banal na Espirito sa ating kasaysayan.

Ito po si Melba Padilla Maggay ng Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture, naghahatid ng mga pananaw na Sa Ganang Amin ay tugon sa ating panahon.


Si Melba Padilla Maggay ay President ng Institute for Studies in
Asian Church and Culture (ISACC).


Sa Ganang Amin ay isang bahagi ng Tawag ng Karunungan, programang pang-radyo para sa 'voter education' at mabuting pamamahala (good governance). Mapapakinggan ito Lunes hanggang Sabado 8:00-9:00 n.u. sa radyo, ipihit lang sa 702 DZAS-AM, o sa internet, i-kilk lang ang Listen Live 702 DZAS sa

Contemplating on Who to Vote

Today has been interesting. I started off with a good breakfast with my kids. Afterwards we headed for the TV room (where there is also an exercise mat originally intended to be the children’s play area) so I could do a 25-minute dance exercise routine following the Jaclyn Smith Beauty and Balance video. I wasn’t even fully warmed up yet when the phone rang and it was for me. It was 8 in the morning and a friend was talking to me about the current events (I was out of town for two and a half weeks). Furthermore, he was convincing me to vote for a certain candidate as this person was the supposed “conscience vote” of the thinking Filipino. While my friend’s rationale for promoting the cause of his chosen candidate was quite convincing, the irony of the whole thing to me was that my friend was not even a registered voter! He had long decided to forego his voting rights because he no longer believes in the system…that is the Philippine government. In fact he is one of those who are among thousands of Filipinos who are considering migration to a “first world country” as a better and more practical option for his family. This conversation set me off to a whole day of contemplation: Who is really a thinking Filipino? Who is the Filipino who loves this country? Who is voting according to conscience? Who is voting out of mere obligation? Who is voting out of ignorance or bandwagon mentality? I did not arrive at any answers but I really thought hard about who should be my presidential bet on May 10. This day ended for me with reading a few more articles on why I should vote and not vote for certain people. In the end, I found the article of Dr. Melba P. Maggay most enlightening (I’m copying that article onto this blog spot, too). My conclusion is Ako ay mananalangin at boboto sa Mayo 10. Ang hindi boboto walang karapatang magreklamo!